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Deric Dyer: Press

Sax machines
Local luminaries Deric Dyer and Paul Ahlstrand

By: TED DROZDOWSKI
8/29/2006 4:17:49 PM

SATURDAY-NIGHT SOUNDTRACK: Star sideman Dyer plays plenty on his own disc.
In our guitar-centric culture it’s easy to forget that the first rock-and-roll instrument was the saxophone. Check out some vintage doo-wop or Louis Jordan for a reminder. Or listen to Deric Dyer and Paul Ahlstrand, Boston-based sax players who’ve kept rock’s fiery spirit alive.
Both are MVPs, though they operate at different levels. Dyer, a native of Bermuda who’s lived in Medford for 14 years, has spent much of his career touring with Tina Turner, Joe Cocker, Bryan Ferry, Andrea Bocelli, and Al Jarreau, among others. Ahlstrand has toured and recorded with a plethora of national blues club and festival acts including Ronnie Earl, Mighty Sam McClain, the Love Dogs, Nicole Nelson, Susan Tedeschi, and Toni Lynn Washington, but he also plays with local rock artists the Rudds, the Family Jewels, and David Johnston. He’s even turned up on the occasional Bourbon Princess gig.

Both Dyer and Ahlstrand have new albums reflecting aspects of their musicianship that their roles as sidemen often conceal. No One’s Sleeping (Del Boy) is Dyer’s second disc, a versatile excursion through rock, soul, smooth jazz, and fusion. The Sunday Hang (Gibraltar), Ahlstrand’s debut as a leader, is a jazz session reminiscent of the late-’50s unhurried “cool” sound tailored by Miles Davis and Chet Baker. Both are playful recordings, though Dyer’s disc is a Saturday-night soundtrack whereas Ahlstrand’s is perfect for Sunday-afternoon cocktails.

Dyer explains that “the goal of No One’s Sleeping is to leave my own stamp on something. When you’re working for different people, wonderful opportunities come your way, but you’re always working toward the betterment of somebody else’s career. So it was time to put out a CD that realizes my own vision.” He’s being modest. Although it’s true that a sideman’s job is making a star look good, his inventive, edgy soloing has always pushed him into the limelight, and that in turn has not only kept him working on A-level tours but made him the envy of plenty of other players.

His first album was far removed from the bright lights of his show-biz world. Never formally released, Heart and Soul was a set of duets with former Tower of Power pianist Nick Milo. Some tracks can be heard at www.dericdyer.com, where No One’s Sleeping is also available.

It might not have been divine intervention, but Dyer was handed his first saxophone by Sister Joseph Anthony of Mount St. Agnes Academy, which needed a saxist in the school band. Over the years he assimilated the playing of heroes like King Curtis, David Sanborn, Junior Walker, Red Psysock, Tom Scott, and Wilton Felder — a who’s who of cool, breathy R&B-infused saxophonists with modernist leanings — into his own fluid style. His musician father also fueled his interest. By age 16 he was playing in Bermuda clubs seven nights a week. In the early ’70s the Boston band American Standard toured in Bermuda, and it recruited him; in ’77 they became Cocker’s backing group. A decade later Dyer survived the most difficult audition of his career and found himself standing on the world’s biggest stages next to Tina Turner. “She’s by far the most exciting artist I’ve seen on stage, let alone been fortunate enough to play with. She can be tough, but there were times watching her perform that I’d become so enthralled I’d almost forget to play.”

He plays plenty on No One’s Sleeping, putting a deep, warm tone in the service of the melody of the soul nugget “I’ve Got To Use My Imagination,” and he spars briefly with guitarist Kevin Barry before getting to the heart of an instrumental version of Al Green’s “I’m Glad You’re Mine.” His variation on “Nessun dorma,” which he first heard Aretha Franklin perform, is the centerpiece; it’s followed by the up-tempo R&B chestnut “Use Me” and then “Pocket Change.” The latter is the first of his own compositions that he’s recorded, and it fits comfortably with the rest of the set’s soulful vibe.

“I’ve been very lucky in my career, and there are some very basic rules that have always served me well. Talk to people and try to connect with them not because of what they can do for you but in a genuine way. Just be honest and fair. And don’t be afraid to move on. I’ve been in situations where I’ve moved on from a band and it wasn’t in my best interest financially, but it closed one door so another could open. As I said, there’s a lot of luck involved, and living this way helps prepare you to receive it when it comes.”

Like a 1950s session for Blue Note, Ahlstrand’s The Sunday Hang was recorded in one day, live in Brookline’s Rear Window Studios. Six of its eight tunes are Ahlstrand originals, and like a good old-school bandleader he gives plenty of solos to pianist Ryan Claunch and bassist Jesse Williams, and drummer Dave Mattacks gets opportunities for dramatic percussive punctuation. The Dorsey Brothers break-up ballad “The Night We Called It a Day” is a beautiful highlight, with Ahlstrand’s tone and slow, breathy blowing striking the perfect “blue” notes — even cracking a bit with the emotional tenor of the tune.

The band celebrated the disc’s release with a night at the Lizard Lounge that found them slipping gracefully back in time to the glory days of jazz. At times Mattacks — a brilliant player with a long pop-music history that includes folk-rock legends Fairport Convention and sessions and tours with Paul McCartney, Elton John, Jethro Tull, and Jimmy Page — proved a bit heavy-handed for the material, especially in his cymbal work. But like the rest of the group, he seemed to relish exploring Ahlstrand’s blithe melodic theme
MUSIC PREVIEW: Dyer makes musical statement at Scullers show Tuesday Deric Dyer will play Scullers Jazz Club in Boston onTuesday. (Courtesy photo) By CHAD BERNDTSON For The Patriot Ledger

Deric Dyer is old school to the bone. The Medford saxophonist’s career and outlook seems of an entirely different era - one of seasoned and versatile players who build their resumes through numerous associations and stand-out gigs, and out last the malaise of meteoric popstars, because they worry more about whether an audience is left tapping its toes than about digital revolution this and Web log exposure that.

Having worked with countless artists since his arrival in the Boston area in the mid-1970s, Dyer is best known for his long stints as lead saxophonist with Tina Turner and Joe Cocker. He’s also logged time with Elton John, Al Jarreau, Bryan Ferry, Supertramp’s Rodger Hudson, Andrea Bocelli, Christopher Cross and a range of others enormous stadium stages and the blinding lights of bigtime productions are as familiar to him as intimate jazz lounges.

Dyer has a new album out, "No One’s Sleeping" and brings his crackling R&B ensemble to Scullers Jazz Club on Tuesday evening: bass (David Hull), guitar (Kevin Barry), drums/tambourine (Marty Richards), keyboards/guitar/vocals (Mitch Chakor) and a three-piecehorn section.

Originally from Ireland, Dyer actually grew up in Bermuda, the son of musician parents. He cut his teeth not through lessons but from seven nights a week blowing his horn in local Bermuda clubs, as well as dabbling in guitar, keyboards, and congas.

"I took very few lessons, and learned on the job," he said." You stole a little from all different places, and sometimes you were unaware of it. " Dyer took his cues from the greats, notably King Curtis, Motown legend Junior Walker, and the Jazz Crusaders’ Wilton Felder. Sessions greats like Bobby Keys and Nicky Hopkins were inspirations and later, friends.

By 16, Dyer was a Bermuda scene regular, and by 19, a band leader. It was the Boston group American Standard that first brought him to Massachusetts. That area crew would play with Dyer’s guys as the opening act. A quick friend ship and an invitation led to grungy basement living in Worcester - Dyer’s first digs, and, for a young musician, The Life.

American Standard became Joe Cocker’s backing band in 1978, and after a few years of regular tours, Dyer returned to Cambridge and became a scene staple for the rest of the early ’80s, playing with the Reflectors, the White Walls, and the beloved Farrenheit.

His biggest break was in January 1987: Tina Turner was auditioning lead saxophonists in preparation for her Break Every Rule World Tour, and, as the story goes, the notoriously temperamental Turner was frustrated that no one could "cut her stuff.
Connections helped Dyer get a foot in the door, but according to Dyer’s bio, he nearly didn’t make it: Murphy’s Law took hold on the day of his audition and he missed a connection en-route to Los Angeles. After much hemming and hawing, first with air traffic control staff in Denver and then with Turner’s road manager, Dyer got his audience with Turner. "Typical Male" was his audition tune and after a grueling hour-and-a-half of tough love from his soon-to-be-employer, he was dispatched to a hotel to wait out a decision. He was moving out of his Boston home and headed off on tour with in weeks.

Later, in 1987, Cocker would come back into the fold,too, and Dyer would become his principal saxman, and later, his band leader, on into the early 1990s. Dyer is all over Cocker’s epic "Joe Cocker Live," recorded at Lowell’s Memorial Auditorium in 1989.

"He’s a gentleman, and he really cared about his bands. He was very unassuming, Dyer said. Dyer has continued to gig with Cocker into the present decade, but it was in recent years that he’s decided to focus on his own music, too. The year 2001 saw his debut release, "Heart & Soul," on Del-Boy Records. "No One’s Sleeping" makes him two-for-two. Dyer recalls his solo shows around the release of "Heart & Soul," and how he decided at the time he would record "live" in the studio i.e. playing as it sounds, with no studio trickery or excessive tinkering, like most jazz mendo - for his next album.

"When we played live, a whole other world opened up, "he said. " I really wanted to have that human element. I like to play with guys who bring a lot to the table, and let them do what they know how to do.

" The band gets right and dirty, to say the least - Dyer’s "Pocket Change" is a high, as are wholly agreeable takes on Bill Withers’ "Use Me" and Al Green’s "I’m Glad Your Mine. " Most curious in a gospel-toned rendering of Puccini’s "Nessun Dorma" (from Turandot), which Dyer said he was inspired to do after watching Aretha Franklin perform the piece in Luciano Pavarotti’s place at the Grammy Awards. Dyer also notes the album title, "No One’s Sleeping," is the English translation of "Nessun
Dorma.

" Dyer’s vision remains intact, and most importantly,uncompromised.
"I might be one of the only people out there who still believes that there’s a big market out there for real music - with real players and real talent," he says. "The industry was not prepared for the digital world. I think often, am I wrong? Am I trying to do something that people don’t want anymore? But then I listen to the CD, and I hear substance. Guys like us need to keep doing what we do. We learned it from the older generation, and it’s our job to make some sort of statement.

" Deric Dyer At Scullers Jazz Club, Doubletree GuestSuites, 400 Soldiers Field Road, Boston, 8 p.m. Tuesday. Tickets $18 ($58 for dinner and show) at the box office, 617-562-4111 or through www.scullersjazz.com. Copyright 2006 The Patriot LedgerTransmitted Saturday, June 24, 2006
By CHAD BERNDTSON - The Patriot Ledger (Jun 27, 2006)